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  • A Brief History of Writing, and: Gravity
  • K. Srilata (bio)

A Brief History of Writing

In this forgotten city park, a man inscribes his lover’s name on the bark of a tree, heedless that in the twelfth century, two hundred and fifty calves lost their skins to the Winchester church bible, that it took thirty men sixteen years, back in the thirteenth century, to carve the Tripitaka Koreana into eighty-one thousand wooden printing blocks, that only seven centuries later, the Japanese imperialist army engraved its tongue on the living bodies of Korean independence activists.

Writing has made its violent way into hide, skin, wood, and paper, squatting down in two-dimensionality, no longer kinetic, slicing through our minds with its alphabetic, linear whiteness.

Because of the present, we have forgotten the gentle, dancing shapes of things. [End Page 79]


Our physics teacher, his hair trying hard to escape a ponytail, taught us that gravity was a wicked witch. Thanks to her, he said, we were likely to be stuck for good, the way he was, teaching badly behaved kids such as ourselves, from now unto eternity.

As I grew older and old man Time had me by the elbow, I figured that gravity was not such a terrible thing after all; in fact, it was my only hope of getting some order and rest into my life.

I like being stuck for good in the quicksand of things. I like the glutinous eternity of it. If I could, I would eat it like rice cake. [End Page 80]

K. Srilata

K. Srilata is the author of two collections of poetry, Seablue Child and Arriving Shortly, and she coedited The Rapids of a Great River: The Penguin Book of Tamil Poetry (Viking). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The BloodAxe Anthology of Indian Poets, Wasafiri, and The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry. Her novel Table for Four (Penguin) was long-listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize.



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pp. 79-80
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